Barn Opera offers holiday concerts online
SALISBURY/BRANDON — In a holiday season full of creative ways to share good tidings despite the pandemic, Brandon Opera is no exception.
The nonprofit is using the power of video to share its holiday productions this year.
The goal of Barn Opera has always been to bring opera to a wider audience, which has been a labor of love for founder and operatic tenor Josh Collier. But throw a global pandemic in the mix and suddenly recording is the way to share songs and performance.
This holiday season, Collier had planned to mount a repeat production of the Italian opera, “Amahl and the Night Visitor,” which is a retelling of the three wise men, or the magi, at the Salisbury Congregational Church.
“That was the plan, but COVID-19 said that wasn’t going to happen,” Collier said Sunday.
But opera fan and Salisbury resident Glen Andres suggested that Collier assemble the cast and record a video of the production instead. So, they did. That production began airing on local cable access channel PEG-TV, Dec. 6 and through Jan. 6.
In addition, Collier also mounted and filmed the company’s American premiere of Andrew Ager’s “A Christmas Carol,” including additional carols and a sing along. That production premiered on Monday, Dec. 21 and can be viewed on the Barn Opera website: barnopera.com.
The performance features host and Scrooge Cailin Marcel Manson; Ryan Mangan, tenor, as Bob Cratchit; Collier as Jacob Marley; Nadia Marshall as the Ghost of Christmas Past; Nicholas Tocci as the Ghost of Christmas Present; Helen Lyons, soprano, in the Christmas special; pianist Felix Jarrar; and horn player Joshua Thompson. Collier created the production and directed and edited the video performance.
The opera only took up 30 minutes of video, so the production morphed, Collier said.
“It ended up being more like a telethon,” he joked. “We added some carols, and (host) Cailin Marcel Manson conducted to the camera so people at home would feel like they were there.”
Collier said the church is a wonderful place for any musical event as the acoustics are extremely good.
Collier set up a Christmas tree and an electric fireplace, garland and all the trimmings. The only downside was Collier couldn’t use as many lights as he wanted to because they kept blowing a fuse
“It was great,” he said. “It was lemonade out of lemons. I hate it, but this is the thing. If we’re going to produce anything, we have to just produce it, pandemic be damned. (With the vaccine) there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
There is no charge to view either of Barn Opera’s holiday offerings.
“I think this is a tough time of year for everyone,” he said. “The financial implications of the pandemic has been so grave for so many people, so we didn’t want to do a pay wall, but it has been grave for us too, so any donations are gratefully accepted.”
Collier acknowledged that moving to a new property and renovating a new barn at his home on Pearl Street this year has been extremely challenging given the pandemic, but work is moving along regardless, with the hope that an audience can assemble in a building to enjoy opera some time next year.
The larger issue of asking patrons to pay for some of these events is the opera accessibility factor, the core goal of Barn Opera’s mission.
“With everything we do, we try not to have the socioeconomic divide that opera presents,” Collier said. “This music is really great and my goal is that families can snuggle on the couch and enjoy it.”
The carols sung during the “A Christmas Carol” event are available for download so families can participate. The words to the carols will also appear on the screen to help people sing along.
“I think people are really going to dig it,” Collier said. “If it can make a difficult time a little less difficult, that is our ideal.”
For links to the “A Christmas Carol” video, or to make a donation, visit barnopera.com.
To view the video of “Amahl and The Night Visitors,” visit the PEG-TV website. pegtv.com.
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